Tips for Making Your Boat Dock Safer For Kids
Your dock is not only a way to access your boat, but if you have children, it can also become a play area for kids who love to run around, go swimming and observe aquatic wildlife.
“Childproofing” a boat dock might not be entirely possible, but there are measures you can take to make it much safer for kids to be around. Here are some tips to make your boat dock safer for children.
Install Good Dock Lighting
Kids have a penchant for running around and tripping over stuff. And they’re more likely to trip if they can’t see where they’re going while they're using your boat dock in the dark.
Having good lighting installed on your dock is one of the most important things you can do to make it safer for everybody. You want to make sure your dock is adequately lit to prevent accidents like tripping and falling in the water. Anywhere you can install dock lights for added safety, including underwater LED lights, will help make your dock safer for everybody.
Install Dock Bumpers
Dock bumpers protect your boat as well as the dock itself. They’re also a good way to childproof your dock, as they provide padding for jagged edges, which can help protect kids who jump or fall off the dock.
Just having dock ladders installed isn’t enough, however. You’ll also want to make sure they’re easily accessible and well maintained. The pressure and weight of people climbing up and down those ladders eventually wears them out, and one slippery or broken step can seriously injure anybody using it. If any of your dock ladders are rusty, wobbly or have creaky steps, check them for cracks and loose hardware to make them safe for kids and adults alike.
Install Dock Gates
One of the best ways to childproof a boat dock is to install locking gates on the pathway to the dock or in front of the dock itself.
Now, we know kids like to climb over stuff like gates and fences. So while a gate might not completely prevent a child from accessing the dock, it can certainly stop them from blindly rushing it when they spot something cool in the water, like a manatee or alligator they want to get a closer look at. You’ll want to keep the gate locked and hide the keys to let kids know the dock is off limits without permission.
Keep child-sized life vests in easily accessible spots so that they’re readily available on the dock. Kids tend to jump and fall off of stuff, so having those life vests and rings on hand can help keep them safer when they’re playing on the dock.
Have First-Aid Kits on the Dock
Another essential to have on your boat and dock is first-aid kits. You never know when a child will need immediate medical attention, so make sure your dock has a first-aid kit or three equipped with everything from bandages to alcohol wipes, gauze, and whatever else you think your children might need, like asthma inhalers, for example.
Keep Equipment on Dock Organized
Once again, kids trip over stuff, so make your dock safer by keeping all of your docking equipment organized. This includes keeping dock lines neatly wrapped or tied up and out of the way of walking areas. You’ll also want to have dock storage boxes available to store away any potential obstacles such as the aforementioned personal flotation devices, as well as any other equipment, tools and water toys that kids could trip over.
Prevent Electrical Hazards
What child hasn’t curiously tried to stick pointy objects into electrical outlets? Children, particularly toddlers, like to touch everything they see, so you’ll want to childproof your dock from electrical hazards. Regularly inspect your dock for any potential electrical dangers like exposed outlets and dock light wiring, and take care of it immediately. There are many safeguards you can install on your dock to prevent electrocution, and we recommend hiring a licensed electrician to inspect and childproof it.
Regularly Clean and Maintain Your Dock
Keeping your dock clean and free of contaminants that can deteriorate it like acidic bird poop not only makes it aesthetically pleasing to look at, but also protects it from rotting and rusting, which can injure a careless child running or playing on it due to something like an exposed rusty nail or rotted out floorboard. Make sure to regularly clean your dock to keep it durable and sturdy, and make any repairs necessary that create potential hazards for children.
Keep the Boat Covered
Another way to safeguard your dock is to cover the boat to keep kids from playing in it. Also, make sure the boat’s engine is off while it’s docked to protect kids not only from carbon monoxide poisoning from exhaust emissions, but also from a spinning propeller while they’re swimming in the water around the dock.
Provide Adult Supervision
Most of what’s been mentioned is pretty much common sense, but perhaps the biggest no-brainer here is to always provide adult supervision while there are kids on the dock. That includes establishing rules for playing on the dock, and enforcing them.
Teach your kids how to safely walk on the dock; where to find the personal flotation devices; what not to trip over or touch; and how to safely get on and off the boat. And always be there to supervise it, or have another adult present at all times.